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War is war

Oleg's Choice
Regissør: Elena Volochine James Keogh
( Frankrike/Ukraina)

FIVE YEARS AFTER: There is little hero worship or Russian propaganda to track in Oleg's Choice – a documentary showing the everyday lives of Russian soldiers and volunteers fighting in Ukraine.

This article was translated by Google and R.E.

At the five-year anniversary of the outbreak of the Ukrainian civil war in mid-February, there is still an almost unknown side to this conflict that deserves more attention.

documentary Oleg's Choice, by directors Elena Volichine and James Keogh of 2016, is one of a few films that seek to understand the motivation of ordinary Russian men traveling to the outbreak republics of eastern Ukraine, a region and a war that has virtually disappeared from Western news media, but which is still ongoing and takes the lives of both soldiers and civilians.

Unlike Aliona Poluninas Their Own Republic, recently reviewed in New Time by Carmen Gray, Volochine and Keogh do not take sides with either side of the conflict. There is no hero worship or propaganda here for Russia and the Kremlin-backed rebels. Instead, we witness the emotional and psychological contradictions that drive the characters in the film.

A broken mother

The film revolves around the 32 year old Oleg Doubinine, who heads a unit of 60 Russian (and some Ukrainian) volunteers, and his younger comrade Max. Both have left family, friends and – in Max's case "a well-paid job" – and put their lives at risk by fighting them most Russians fail to distinguish themselves.

The irony of a war that has divided so many and so many becomes clear when Oleg's group captures a Ukrainian scout. He is taken in for questioning by a brigade commander in a lavish headquarters in Donetsk – the capital of the self-established People's Republic of Donetsk (DNR) – and the obviously terrified young man responds with one-syllable words with a vague, leaden voice. When he is asked if he knows what will happen. . .

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Nick Holdsworth
Holdsworth is a writer, journalist and filmmaker.

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